Sharks GM updates Joe Thornton's injury, will miss 'several weeks'

Sharks GM updates Joe Thornton's injury, will miss 'several weeks'

The Sharks will be without center Joe Thornton, their second-leading scorer, for "several weeks" after he sustained an injury to his right MCL on Tuesday, general manager Doug Wilson told reporters at Sharks Ice on Wednesday.

"We're gonna get an MRI today on his knee. It was not the knee he injured last year," Wilson said. 

"We'll wait until some of the swelling goes down, but it looks like he's going to be out for several weeks anyhow."

The team is unsure if Thornton will need surgery, and is awaiting further updates, according to Wilson. 

In the final minute of regulation during San Jose's 5-4 overtime loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday, Thornton's knee buckled in an awkward collision with teammate Mikkel Boedker in the neutral zone. Thornton skated to the bench under his own power, and headed straight to the Sharks dressing room. 

Last season, Thornton partially tore the MCL and ACL in his left knee. The injury required offseason surgery, but Thornton played in San Jose's last four playoff games during a six-game, first round loss to the Edmonton Oilers, and was a full participant at the beginning of training camp following offseason rehab. 

Thornton played through injury earlier this season, too. He missed a couple of practices in November, but did not miss a game, with an injury that Thornton and Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer told reporters was unrelated to his left knee.

"The bad news is the injury. The good news is he's a unique individual," Wilson told reporters. "He knows how to address injuries and rehab, and all that.

"All injuries are different, so [I think] the mental approach to injuries like this is his strength, and we'll just see what the next few weeks brings."

With health on his slide, Thornton scored 26 points in his last 28 games after scoring 10 in his first 19. Thornton's six goals in January are tied for the eighth-most in the league. 

Wilson said the team will need the rest of the roster to bear more responsibility in Thornton's absence.

"[Thornton's] such an inspirational guy. What he's done is I think he's kind of inspired a lot of those other guys to step up," Wilson said. "And now they need to step up even more."

"I think we're set up. No team likes to lose a player like this for any period of time. And as I say, Joe is so inspirational to all of us that I think it's an opportunity for some people to follow his lead."

Entering Wednesday, the Sharks held a three-point cushion on the Pacific Division's second playoff spot, which means they'd have home ice advantage in the first round if the postseason began today. Wilson told reporters that San Jose's approach to the Feb. 26 trade deadline will "probably not" change in light of Thornton's injury.

"But don't hold me to that," he quickly added. "You never know what comes available as you go forward."

Last season, the Sharks and Thornton disclosed his injury differently. Perhaps because he was hurt  just three games before the postseason began, DeBoer told reporters that Thornton, and then-injured center Logan Couture, were "day-to-day" and that he "[expected] both of them back at some point."

Thornton himself initially told reporters there was "no doubt" he'd play in Game 1 of the Sharks' first round series against the Oilers, only to say he was "day-to-day" the day before the series began.

Wilson told reporters on Wednesday that it was club policy to disclose if a player was expected to miss more than two weeks. Thornton returned to San Jose's lineup 14 days after injuring his left knee in April.

Assessing how Sharks' two trades impact the rest of their offseason plans


Assessing how Sharks' two trades impact the rest of their offseason plans

Sharks general manager Doug Wilson got an early start to his morning on Tuesday, making a pair of deals before most of the team's fans had woken up. 

To recap: San Jose acquired winger Mike Hoffman, a pick, and a prospect from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for a package centered around struggling forward Mikkel Boedker. Ottawa announced that deal at 4:58 a.m. PT.  The Sharks then flipped Hoffman and a pick to the Florida Panthers for a trio of draft selections, a trade that Florida officially announced at 7:17 a.m. PT. 

Here's what each team acquired after the dust settled:

Sharks get:

  • Defenseman Cody Donaghey (from Senators)
  • 2020 fifth-round pick (from Senators)
  • 2018 fourth-round pick (from Panthers)
  • 2018 fifth-round pick (from Panthers)
  • 2019 second-round pick (from Panthers)

Senators get (from Sharks):

  • Forward Mikkel Boedker
  • Defenseman Julis Bergman
  • 2020 sixth-round pick

Panthers get (from Sharks):

  • Forward Mike Hoffman
  • 2018 seventh-round pick 

So what does it all mean for the Sharks? Perhaps most importantly, trading Boedker's contract, who was just seeming to find his place in the lineup down the stretch this season after signing a four-year deal with the team two summers ago, clears an additional $4 million in salary cap space over the next two seasons (and $6 million in total salary).  With the cap set to rise to between $78 million and $82 million, San Jose would (as of now) have between $14.5 million and $18.5 million in cap space, and that's before considering the possibility that the team buys out Paul Martin's contract. 

Even if no other moves are made, the Sharks are in position to make a splash in free agency. According to The Sporting News' Evan Sporer, their maneuvering is designed to chase not one, but two of the biggest free-agent fish this summer. 

In his statement announcing the trades, Wilson said the deals "free up a substantial amount of cap space for internal and external player options in the coming months," and re-stocked on draft picks. It was a tidy bit of trading, as San Jose improved upon each of the selections it traded away, and now has seven picks in this year's draft after entering the day with just five. 

He also said that the deal opens a spot for the young forwards in the organization to challenge for ice time. Wilson specifically mentioned Kevin Labanc (who actually averaged more ice time than Boedker this season), playoff hero Marcus Sorensen, newly-signed European free agents Antti Suomela and Vincent Praplan, as well as rookies Dylan Gambrell and Max Letunov. 

Meanwhile, Hoffman joined Theo Fleury and Mark Messier in the "Sharks For A Few Hours" club, and has a new home following accusations that his girlfriend, Monica Caryk, harassed a teammate's wife. Last week, the Ottawa Citizen reported that Melinda Karlsson, wife of Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson, had filed for an order of protection against Hoffman's girlfriend and accused her of an online harassment campaign throughout the season.

As a result, Hoffman's trade value plummeted from where it was at the trade deadline, according to ESPN's  Greg Wyshynski.

Pierre LeBrun told TSN that the trade was not a three-way deal, as the Sharks and Senators reportedly did not communicate about the subsequent trade with the Panthers. Wilson's no stranger to creatively facilitating some of the offseason's biggest deals, however. He acquired a pair of players and a pick from the Atlanta Thrashers in 2010 so Atlanta could acquire Dustin Byfuglien from then-Stanley Cup champions Chicago, and  he also acquired goaltender Martin Jones from the Boston Bruins three years ago just days after the Los Angeles Kings shipped him (and a first-round pick) up to Boston for Milan Lucic.

In series of deals, Sharks trade Boedker, acquire four draft picks


In series of deals, Sharks trade Boedker, acquire four draft picks

While you were sleeping, the Sharks were busy making moves.

At 4:58am PT, the Ottawa Senators announced that they had acquired forward Mikkel Boedker, defenseman Julius Bergman and the Sharks' 2020 sixth round pick for forward Mike Hoffman, Ottawa's 2020 fifth round pick and defenseman Cody Donaghey.

Hoffman played in all 82 games this season and finished with 22 goals and 34 assists. But before he could even be fitted for a Sharks jersey, San Jose flipped Hoffman to the Florida Panthers along with their 2018 seventh round pick for Florida's 2019 second round pick, a 2018 fourth round pick (previously owned by Vegas) and Florida's 2018 fifth round pick.

By trading Boedker, the Sharks cleared $4 million in salary cap space.